It’s a fact that more women read Jane Austen than men. Men might scratch their heads when it comes to understanding her appeal, but there ARE some who are enamored with her. Old Fogey of the blog Idolising Jane is not only a testament that Jane’s writing appeals to the opposite sex but that men bring a fine sensibility and understanding to her work. Steve Chandler and Terrence Hill are the authors of Two Guys Read Jane Austen, a charming and funny book about two men who read Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park and came away with a new respect for the author and her work. Joseph Thouvenel states:
As 21st century guys, we can learn a lot from the attitudes and behaviors displayed in Jane Austen’s novels. While it would be possible to argue that Austen uses her novels to construct attributes of an ideal man (and this may be a very valid point), I believe the qualities that these men posses are worth striving for in our lives. Men today would do well to learn from their ability to be confident without being cocky, chivalrous without being demeaning; maintaining the honor and dignity of the women in our lives, observant and responsive to the needs of those around us, and models of integrity in how we spend our time and resources. It’s probably obvious that I believe masculinity today has been somewhat distorted. Reviving Austen’s ideals would do much to reinvigorate how we as men perceive ourselves, the world (and women) around us, and, in turn, how they perceive us as well. - Jane Austen and the 21st Century Man
What a fine young man! The blog author of Some of nothing wrote in Six Reasons Why Men Should Watch/Read Jane Austen puts it more bluntly (and not without humor), urging men to “dig Jane” in order to connect with women. As one woman told him, “If we can dig Spock, you can dig Lizzy.” Not bad advice. So many women support movies and books that were designed to appeal to men, and they do so without much protestation. Can men claim the reverse? The terms chick lit and chick flicks have a light weight connotation that male bonding movies like Die Hard, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, (which my brother has seen a zillion times and whose charm escapes me), Goodfellas, and Fight Club do not possess. Some of Nothing’s blog author concludes that Jane Austen is good! Bless his enlightened heart.
Still, male Jane Austen admirers are few and far between. Sir Walter Scott waxed eloquently over Pride and Prejudice, saying: “ That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. “ Yet David Arthur Walters admits to not caring about Jane Austen, and Mark Twain was quite vocal in disliking her work, even though he was drawn to read her books over and over. His famous quote,”Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone,” hangs in the Mark Twain House. No wonder the museum has trouble staying open, for what self-respecting Janeite would pass through its doors?
Almost two hundred years after Jane’s death in 1817 she is more popular than ever – among women. The Jane Austen Book Club distinguished itself by having one male member join the group, and Prudy was able to connect to her husband by urging him to read Persuasion, but these are the exceptions and not the rule.
There are signs of hope that the other sex is discovering the joys of reading this fine author. Almost a year ago author Laurie Viera Rigler wrote, Why Men Should Read Jane Austen, making a compelling case for why men should discover her. I conclude my short essay with a poll. If you were to urge your significant male other or male friend or relative in your life to read Jane Austen, which book would you suggest that he read first?